Whoever forms the next government will be under pressure from voters in Galway to redraw the constituency boundaries as a matter of urgency.
While a lot of the conversation nationally concerns water charges and government reform, the voters in Galway simply want their county back.
In Galway East, in particular, a large tract of the constituency is now gone in with Roscommon and for the voters in the likes of Ballinasloe, Ballygar, Glenamaddy and Dunmore, this is not a very favourable situation in their minds.
Many said that, apart from a couple of names on the ballot paper, they were not familiar with the vast majority of candidates who put their names forward.
Roscommon has become the bane of Galway voters for several decades. Back in the seventies and eighties part of the county was in Galway East when Tom Hussey from Glenamaddy was a TD.
Then it was decided that the county boundary would be preserved as the constituency was made into a four-seater back in 1997 and it remained as such until 2012 when 20,000 votes was put into a new Roscommon-dominated constituency.
The whole of Ballinasloe town is in the Roscommon-Galway constituency and yet the vast majority of those with an interest in politics were in New Inn watching the Galway East count almost two weeks ago.
And to add to their frustration, there was no candidate in the field from the Ballinasloe area. In fact the only Galway candidate in the constituency was independent Deputy Mick Fitzmaurice from Glinsk who was successfully returned.
But the vast majority of those from the Ballinasloe area told The Connacht Tribune that they wanted to be part of Galway East and not in Roscommon. They are already lobbying potential government TDs to have to boundaries revised.
Even for voters in Roscommon, it has been confusing. For many years they have been involved in a Roscommon-Longford constituency and then on the last occasion they had to get familiar with candidates in South Leitrim. Now they have a chunk of Galway thrown in with them.
Equally the vast majority of the 7,500 voters in South Mayo do not want to be part of Galway West and they too have expressed the view that the county boundaries should be restored when it comes to voting in a general election.
There was apathy among the voters in areas such as Ballinrobe, Kilmaine and Garrymore when they saw a ballot paper that contained 19 Galway candidates and just one from Mayo – John O’Mahony who failed to win a seat for Fine Gael.
Teenager caught with €20,000 worth of cannabis
A teenager was stopped and searched by Gardaí in Eyre Square on Monday evening, and found in possession of an estimated €20,000 worth of cannabis.
Members of the Galway Divisional Drugs Unit stopped the man, aged in his late teens, at around 6pm and searched him under the Misuse of Drugs Act. During the search the man was found in possession of a €20,000 of suspected cannabis herb. The drugs seized will be sent for forensic analysis.
He was arrested and detained at Garda Headquarters in Renmore and was released from custody this morning. A file is now being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Level 5 ‘lockdown’ restrictions from midnight Wednesday
‘Crass stupidity’ to allow Leisureland close
The looming threat of closure for Leisureland after Christmas amounts to “crass stupidity” and requires an urgent commitment for funding from Government, according to a local TD.
Deputy Catherine Connolly told the Galway City Tribune she had raised the issue in the Dáil with the Minister of State for Local Government and he had expressed an openness to meeting with a delegation from City Hall in relation to the City Council-owned facility’s dire financial situation.
“It’s simply not acceptable that a public swimming pool would close when we have the Minister for Finance announcing a budget of €18 billion this week – that’s Monopoly money.
“We have €18 billion to dispense and the challenge is to do that in a way that ensures a basic level of services below which we cannot go, and that requires funding the local authority. The local authority is fundamental in any civilised society, as are the services it provides,” said the Independent Deputy.
Raising the issue in Leinster House, Deputy Connolly said that Leisureland was an excellent public facility that had been open since 1973 and had broke even for the last number of years, but had run into major funding shortfalls as a result of Covid-19 restrictions.
“It is a fantastic swimming pool. I must declare a conflict of interest as I use it every weekend, It helps to keep me semi-sane and semi-fit.
“No public swimming pool makes money and few of them break even. This pool needed money due to Covid-19 and the difficulties experienced by every public swimming pool in the country. The management in the City Council said it was not in a position to give it money and that the swimming pool would have to close,” said Deputy Connolly, adding that the decision had been made and staff were informed.
Due to public pressure and resistance from local councillors, the decision was reversed and €207,000 in funding had been provided by the Council Executive.
“However, it pointed out that the money was coming out of next year’s budget, so it could not continue, and it would not be in a position to fund it.
“I do not expect miracles, but I expect commitment from the Minister and the Government that, regardless of what happens, we are not going to close public swimming pools or public libraries. They are essential services,” said Deputy Connolly.
She said €2.5 million in funding had been made available for “swimming pools with public access” in the private sector as part of the Government’s July Stimulus package, but nothing for publicly-owned facilities.
“It is very ironic if we are going to keep private swimming pools open once they have some limited access to the public, while we close down the public swimming pools,” she added.
Responding, Minister Peter Burke said his Department was keeping spending and cash flow at local authorities under constant review and would continue to work with Galway City Council to address issues.
“My Department is engaging with representatives of the local government sector and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform on the financial challenges facing local authorities as a direct consequence of the pandemic, in terms of additional costs incurred as part of the local government response and decline in local authority income streams.
“I will do my very best with regard to the Deputy’s ask. I would be willing to meet a delegation from the City Council in connection with this issue. However, there are going to be significant asks emanating from this crisis. We are doing our very best to make what we have go as far as it can. It presents a major challenge,” said Minister Burke.